29 thoughts on “News/Politics 5-6-23

  1. Some interesting thoughts in this piece, but it’s (very) long.


    A New Christian Authoritarianism?

    ~ You might have noticed American life feels increasingly politicized. Just think about the conversations you’ve had as a pastor in the last two years compared to the last twenty.

    Or consider the broader landscape: debates over national anthems at football games, rainbow flags adorning businesses, neighborhood “co-exist” lawn signs, pronouns in email signatures, a broad array of speech codes, diversity training in corporate America and the military, protests against a fast-food establishment, debates about COVID masks and quarantines as well as divisions over whether medical authorities are trustworthy, and the list goes on and on, pushing into more and more areas of life. We live in the era of The Political.

    The cultural moment is captured in William Butler Yeats’ 1938 poem “Politics,” which begins with the epigram, “The destiny of man presents its meaning in political terms.” Yeats looked leftward and saw communism, rightward and saw fascism. Both ideologies made totalitarian claims—political claims on the totality of people’s lives, from art to romance to religion. The middle ground in European politics was vanishing, squeezed out by this authoritarianism on the left and right.

    A few years later, around 1945, C. S. Lewis remarked, “A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion.”[1] By this measure, it would seem we are an increasingly sick society. Moral division abounds. People feel an impulse to fix things. They assume government needs to act. And everything gets politicized.

    Christians today hardly live between monsters quite as ugly as Yeats’. No one is yet calling for concentration camps. Yet if a nation’s “politics” refers to that place it goes to resolve disputes, punish the bad, and reward the good by governmental power, the creeping kudzu of politicization reveals our deepening moral, ideological, and finally religious divisions as well as the conviction that those divisions are so deep that only governmental power will resolve them. Creeping politicization, in other words, implies a creeping authoritarianism.

    In response to the secular authoritarianism of the left, a growing chorus of Christian voices on the right have adopted their own authoritarian approach to politics. Whether they go by the title of “general-equity theonomist,” “Christian nationalist” “magisterial Protestant,” “Roman Catholic integralist,” or, in legal circles, “common good constitutionalist,” their basic pitch is the same:

    The middle ground of classical liberalism’s restrained approach to governmental power has proven inadequate for maintaining a moral, religious, and just society. The liberal DNA of the American Experiment, following secular Jeffersonian and Madisonian trajectories, has betrayed us. The Experiment has become the “high church form of secularism.”[2] And “liberalism has failed because it succeeded.”[3] The liberal Experiment has matured (or, better, devolved) into the LGBTQ+ and so-called woke identity politics of the progressive left, which threatens its own authoritarianism. Therefore, we’re left with no choice except to adopt one of two authoritarianisms: the secular left’s or the Christian’s. So pick your side. If you think you can defend some form of non-authoritarian middle, you’re a “regime theologian.” You’re handing the sword to the godless authoritarians.

    It’s a compelling pitch, and maybe it’s correct, historically speaking. Hope for a non-authoritarian option may vanish. The American Experiment is an experiment. Its main goal—that a people of diverse religions, worldviews, cultures, and ethnicities may live together peaceably around the shared affirmations of freedom, rights, and equality—may prove unworkable. As such, the future may indeed look like one authoritarianism or another.

    Why is this post-liberal movement rising up now? When people feel existentially threatened, they reach for a strong man. Think of President Trump. He’s a playground bully that embattled people hide behind. Likewise, many American Christians increasingly feel existentially threatened. We no longer live in a positive world or even neutral world, but “negative world,” where “being known as a Christian is a social negative.” Theonomy, Christian nationalism, and magisterial Protestantism offer a theological strongman.

    Meanwhile, other Christians watching the rise of this movement are slack-jawed that anyone would think it’s possible to renew Christendom now. Realpolitik responds, “Are you kidding me? You think our country would ever go for this?”

    Yet in a way that’s just the point. In the history of political philosophy, fresh rounds of theorizing occur when people feel oppressed and embattled, whether Jefferson writing a Declaration in response to British imposition or Marx writing in response to the inequalities of industrialization. Those in power who enjoy the ease of majority-status don’t typically feel the need to rethink theories of government. … ~


  2. Another piece in that long essay (first table and second table refer to the 10 Commandments here; horizontal and vertical referring to relationships to man and God):

    ~ … the Bible leaves what might feel like a frustrating tension in place. On the first hand, it tells us to use the sword to protect humans because they’re made in God’s image. On the second hand, it doesn’t authorize us to use the sword to protect belief in God. On the first hand, it suggests that a society that denies God will veer toward injustice since he’s the foundation of all ethics, as is happening in our own society. On the second hand, it doesn’t then give us the sword to fix the God-problem. Instead, it tells us to preach the gospel.

    When Christians begin to insist “There must be a political solution to a decline in religious belief and the growth of injustice,” they’ve begun to succumb to a theology of glory instead of a theology of the cross. They’ve begun to trade in a hope for the next world with a hope in this one, even if unintentionally.

    No doubt, Jesus’s disciples were frustrated by this tension, too. They wanted to fight with swords. Yet Jesus remarked, “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). Jesus’s servants should fight to love their neighbors and seek justice by fulfilling their political duties in the protectionist, horizontal, second-table matters. Yet they should not fight to expand his kingdom, using the sword or any tool of the flesh to actively or passively enforce belief in first-table matters …

    … “If theonomy and Christian nationalism are wrong, what’s your alternative program?” A pastor friend sympathetic with theonomy asked me that question the other day.

    It’s sort of like sitting next to a cancer patient in a hospital bed and having a fellow pastor who is sympathetic with the health-and-wealth gospel ask, what is your alternative program is to his name-it-claim-it prayers.

    Answer number one is, change your expectations. God doesn’t guarantee or give us tools to make sure this patient or this nation gets better in this world. Rather, he gives us ways to pursue imperfect common grace improvements and, more importantly, faith to endure whatever comes, including irreversible declines.

    In other words, don’t put your hope in horses and chariots. The Babylonians’ horses and chariots may win the day. Rather, put your hope in the Lord, so that, even if they do, you can trust that Christ’s final victory is certain and that your primary job is to declare as much.

    Answer number two can be found in the next article. Yet here it is in a sentence: use whatever political stewardship you have (whether voting, lobbying, paying taxes, or acting as a cupbearer to the king) to work for a government that administers the justice requisite for protecting human life, secures the conditions necessary for fulfilling the dominion mandate, and provides a platform for God’s people to declare God’s perfect judgment and salvation.

    Hopefully, that’s an answer that works for Christians in eighteenth and twenty-first century United States, in Sweden and India, in Argentina and Saudi Arabia. A biblical answer should work in all those places. ~


  3. A piece from Janie B. Cheaney in World.

    This is referring to distinguishing truth from dogma, but I think that the questions are pertinent to our political discussions as well.

    “Fighting the self-righteous rush
    Some questions to ask before jumping into the public fray”

    “Phelps-Roper’s crisis of faith began in her Twitter feed, with direct challenges to dogmas she’d never questioned. “What if you’re wrong?” entered her mind for the first time and raised havoc with the verities. During her intellectual and emotional dark night, she developed a series of questions to help her distinguish truth from dogma. She shared these with Rowling in their final ­discussion. They are:

    • Can I determine the evidence I would need in order to change my position?

    • Can I articulate my opponent’s position in a way they would approve?

    • Am I attacking ideas, or people?

    • Am I willing to cut off relationships with people who disagree with me over secondary issues?

    • Am I willing to take extraordinary measures against them, such as forcing them out of their jobs or damaging their reputations?

    • Do I celebrate their misfortune?

    Rowling added another question, apropos of her own experience:

    • Do I get a kick, or righteous rush, out of attacking a perceived enemy on social media?”



  4. Great idea.

    All to worship the new patron saint of criminals.



  5. Totally normal….

    “Biden Border Crisis: Illegal Migrants in Chicago Being Housed in Police Stations

    “with resources exhausted and limited shelter beds available in Chicago, immigrants who have been sent here have been sleeping and eating meals on the floors of police stations in recent weeks”




  6. DJ — interesting article; I read most of it. He seems to be advocating a philosophy or theology not much different than the Dutch Reformed concept of sphere sovereignty (Kuyprian). Essentially, individual Christians can redeem the political sphere but not the church nor the pastor. It’s a means for Christians to operate in a classical liberal democracy and explains the rise of Christian democrat parties in Europe.

    However, I don’t see the Christian authoritarians as post liberal but as regressive. For example Catholic integralism was an attempt to reassert the Church’s control of civil institutions which it held prior to the French Revolution and Enlightenment. It sought to modernize Catholic thought to respond to the post Enlightenement era – in some cases this philosophy and theology influence the fascist regimes of Hungary, Romanian, Italy, Spain etc between the wars or even during the war (the clerical fascist states of Croatia and Slovakia).

    The current discourse I hear about grooming, deviancy, and socialism isn’t much different than the Christian conservatives describing the Berlin of Wiemar Germany or the socialists nieghbourhoods in Vienna, Paris etc between the wars. The Christian nationalists and social conservatives of that era allied themselves with the fascists parties to achieve control thinking they could control these parties. They succeeded somewhat in some places but obviously the Catholic and Protestant political parties made a deal with the devil in Germany.

    America (and other countries) weren’t immune to the same type of rhetoric and alliances. As capitalism seemed to have failed in the 30s and communism was perceived as a threat from the left, Christian nationalist embaced the populist right and far right. Father Coughlin is a good American example of that time period who allied himself to the American First movement, Charles Linbergh and other fascists groups. All of this was not post-liberal, it was a throwback to pre-Revolutionary thought.

    Although some of the “woke” crowd is over the top, the author presents a false equivalency here. They are not post liberal or anti-liberal, they operate on the margins but within the liberal democratic structures. Given my political position, it’s not surprising I see the “woke” crowd as a social contagion that will die out not much different to the popularity at one time for multiple personalities. However, given the success of fascists and anti-liberal movements in the past and the parallels of the present, I think I’m justified in being more worried about the far right.


  7. Amy St. Pierre was shot to death yesterday by police – normally the right asks people to remain calm and to look at all types of possible explanations for a policeman ‘s behaviour. Shouldn’t we be rewinding the tape in slow motion to see what the victim did wrong? Why is the right’s response different this time?

    As someone who thinks police are over-militarized and no held accountable enough, I see this as one more piece of evidence to support my viewpoint. Its not the colour of the skin but the police instituion and organization which needs an overhaul.


  8. Instead of tweeting his disgust at the conditions of the homeless migrants, why doesn’t the author start a go fund me and buy tents, tarps, sleeping bags etc and advocating civil governmetn build temporary campgrounds or something to given people dignity. Forget the politicization of the poor and hunger and just take care of them.

    My neighbourhood is incredibly poor by Canadian standards and has a large number of homeless. The community fundraised for tents, sleeping bags, tarps etc and protests against any attempt of the city to tear down encampments. The politicians who represent our neighbourhood constantly advocate for the homeless as they consider them to be residents and neighbours. Ironically it’s the suburban councilors who want a tougher approach.

    Interestingly the statistics of migrants crossing the border show a gradual trend of increasing migration during the Trump presidency which was then interrupted by covid 19. Thus the trend to increased migration started under Trump and soared under Biden. One can wonder what the trend would’ve been without Covid.


  9. Wow, I mistook the sheriff badge in the top corner to mean he was with the police. Did not realize it was a mug shot.

    Not sure why twitter expects her death to be any different than most homicide victims in the US. If they are attempting to contrast her with the attention paid to the black man in the subway; there is some difference. She’s a victim of gun violence, of which, there is far too much in the US but unfortunately it appears America has become immune or has accepted gun violence. In the case of the man in the subway, he was slowly choked to death by a man acting as a vigilante and nobody stopped him. The man was killed due to his mental health problems – a crisis in America no one seems to want to solve anymore. No health care for the poor and homeless. The man should clearly be charged with manslaughter just like the man in the mug shot was charged. In New York, the man has yet to be charged. The narrative can be seen differently – why is a black homeless man’s life not be worthy of criminal charges?


  10. Look for Biden’s dementia to suddenly accelerate in the coming days as the walls finally close in on him and Hunter.


  11. hw: Because Neely had already been arrested 44 times for harrassing, threatening and assaulting people. Why was he even out on the streets? It certainly doesn’t say much for NY’s catch and release policies.


  12. HRW, I’d agree, the position of the author in my 2 first posts would essentially conform to the idea of (general) spheres of authority — family, government church.

    (though God is sovereign over all — not “one square inch” does not (ultimately) belong to him, as Kuyper (?) said)

    My theology feels a little rusty these days.

    But we were reminded in today’s sermon that “good laws are the fruit of a good people.” Passing good laws is fine, but if you have a culture that rejects the good, it will be of little effect.

    We also covered Proverbs 6:17 — (in the list of things our God finds particularly heinous) “Hands that shed innocent blood.”

    Apropos as I found myself quietly shedding some tears and feeling a lament through our first hymns today after I’d seen an update earlier on yesterday’s horrific mass shooting in Texas. I read an interview with one of those who was there and recounted how he rushed over to a child lying in the parking lot and was trying to find her pulse before he realized “she didn’t have a face.”

    Wisdom and mercy from on high are so desperately needed in our time and place.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The mention of Father Coughlin (HRW @12:31) — we seem to be spinning into a political climate of populism in the US (for a number of years now but especially feeling intense right now w/2024 in sight). Interesting to see how these movements and the various similar kinds of personalities come back around again. We are experiencing that kind of upheaval in both parties right now.

    Re the shooting in Texas, I haven’t read all the updates today, but it seems a bit strange that an ID hasn’t been released for the shooter yet. (Or that news folks haven’t figured it out after this much of a time lapse.)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. But so little official information — from authorities — being provided, and no questions taken from reporters yesterday at all? Lots of guessing going on as a result, which is ever worse.


  15. Tychicus – Did the man who killed Neely know about all those arrests? Even if he did, when did harassment, threatening or assault become capital crimes?


  16. The Neely death appears accidental. I haven’t seen any evidence that he was intentionally killed. Accidents come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes they are prosecuted and sometimes not. This man’s death was a tragedy, but perhaps not entirely unpredictable given the way he lived, his behavior, and the lack of mental health care.


  17. Tychicus — my neighbour has a long history of arrests for possession, trafficking, assault, etc. He still sells grey market marijuana. Can I put him in a 4 minute choke hold (I won’t we’re actually friends, he’s very practical and I am not so he fixes things for me, I give him legal and parenting advice
    – his teenage daughters decide he was a better parent and moved in with him; I have my suspicions why but I’m not telling him)

    Or maybe my neighbour across – she’s a prostitute and drug user , I’m sure she has a long criminal history. The drug addicted guys she attracts are loud all night and petty thieves, can I choke them to death.?

    When every man does what is right in their own eyes, what is left in civil society?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Debra – I agree, the death was probably accidental but his actions led to the death. From what I understand that is manslaughter.

    DJ — A New Yorker cartoon once repeated Santayana’s quote – those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it; but then added and those who know history are doomed to watch people repeat it. I feel that way right now as I see right wing populism, moral panic, authoritarianism, and “illiberal democracy” being offered as simple solutions to the problems of the day.


  19. HRW, sometimes an accidental death is prosecuted, and sometimes it isn’t. For example, if you don’t personally check your handgun to see that it’s unloaded, point it at someone, pull the trigger and kill that person you may be prosecuted or you may not, depending on your intent… and whether or not your name is Alex Baldwin or Joe Schmoe. I’m not sure whether the person should be prosecuted or not, but Neely was accidentally killed while assaulting people and breaking the law, while the poor director of Rust was minding her own business. I do think that matters. Accidents happen. But even if there is prosecution, I don’t think there should be jail time.


  20. Was Neely breaking a law and committing a crime? Who decided that? Who was the judge, juror and executioner? A 4 minute choke hold is not an accident, its manslaughter. Again, when every man does what is right in their own eyes, what do we have?


  21. Kizzie, hw: Neely had been living with his grandparents, but that discontinued b/c even they were afraid of him. He had tried to push people onto train tracks, he had assaulted elderly people. He once attempted to kidnap a 7-yr-old girl, dragging her down a street (and he only got four months for that!). He had convictions, he had a pattern of behavior. People on a subway wouldn’t necessarily know that history, but that is the kind of person who might threaten people on a subway.

    The first 911 call reported a physical confrontation and/or assault. The second and third callers reported that Neely was making threats, and was armed with a knife and a gun (which apparently turned out not to be true), so that was the context that the people in that subway car were dealing with at the time.

    AOC and others there in NYC have called for defunding the police, and have villanized them. They have set up a situation where cops are regularly attacked in NYC (including black cops). Police should be active on subways, but instead they aren’t going to even respond to a situation in which someone is threatening people on a subway car (and apparently Neely had been engaging in such behavior for many years!). So now there are situations, as here, where citizens have to do the restraining. There were several citizens who restrained Neely.

    How should such a menace who is acting erratically be dealt with? If you had been on that subway car and had been threatened by Neely, wouldn’t you be thankful for the citizens who restrained him, or how would you have responded? It’s regrettable what happened to Neely, and unfortunately that can happen in a restraining situation when the time factor of the choke is variable (i.e. for a given person one – even an ex-Marine – doesn’t know how long to hold the choke before it becomes dangerous), but what are citizens to do for their protection in such a scenario?

    If the state or local government isn’t willing or able to do the job of securing the people, allowing people to threaten or attack others, what is the people’s recourse? If you are peacefully going about your day, and someone threatens or attacks you, and you end up accidentally, unintentionally killing the attacker, should you be held liable and responsible?


  22. “Was Neely breaking a law and committing a crime? Who decided that? ”

    His numerous victims.

    The video shows that he was breaking the law.

    And when using a choke hold to subdue an out of control, violent, mentally ill criminal, you choke until they stop resisting.

    What would you have had him do, release him and become just another of Neely’s near 40 victims?

    Sorry, even in crap hole NY (which is a crap hole because of people like Neely), folks have a right to self defense.


  23. HRW, We have American jurisprudence where doing what’s right in your own eyes is apparently the new ‘American way’, or hadn’t you noticed. Did you sleep through the entirety of 2020? Are you sleeping still? Unprosecuted insurrections (ACTUAL insurrections where public property is taken and held for weeks), public riots, burning, looting, killings and injuries for months on end. Sometimes manslaughter is prosecuted and sometimes it is not, and I gave you an example where it was not because of intent (and perhaps who the perpetrator was). We’ll just have to wait and see what the prosecutor decides is right. In his eyes. Law is incidental these days.


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